Afternoon Tea

Mum's the Word

I could wax lyrical all day about motherhood. I love being a Mum, and yes it has also been quite a challenge at times. I have encountered the whole spectrum of emotions in the thirty-two years of being a mother, but the overriding one has always been happiness coated with protective responsibility. The bond I have with my sons is steadfast; the joy that these boys have given me knows no bounds and I feel honoured that I get to be their mother. However, it was only once I became a Mum, did I wholly realise the exalted status that my own mother deserved.

Children have this incredible ability to make you forget your worries and hey presto everything is just fine when you enter their world. A world full of giggles and innocent laughter. I fondly recall every Mother's Day, my young children scrambling up the stairs aided by their Dad with a breakfast tray laden with goodies for me. My oldest son proudly carrying the flowers, the middle one clutching the chocolates and the tiny one trailing behind with the homemade cards. They would clamber into my bed, smothering me with hugs and kisses, with the little one left squealing as he couldn't climb up into the bed! Now in their thirties I'm looking forward to my breakfast tray, but instead of tea, toast and fruit, how about eggs benedict and mimosas boys? 

I absolutely love cooking for my family and they are an incredibly receptive and appreciative audience. There is something very profound in cooking for those you love, something very significant, something very wholesome. Nurturing your family just seems to strengthen the bond, especially when you all sit down to enjoy the fruits of this labour. We all recall special moments in our lives related to food, usually starting at our mother's kitchen table. As adults, we are desperate for our mothers to recreate the nostalgic foods that we crave and as mothers it allows us to connect to a deeper part within us. For me, my cooking is an offering of my love to my family and friends, pure and simple. I'm sharing a cupcake recipe enhanced with pistachios and rose petals. Enjoy this expression of love and indulge your loved ones. Happy Mother's Day to all you incredible Mums out there.

Pistachio & Rose Petal Cupcakes

Makes 5 large cupcakes, or 7 medium cupcakes 

  • 125g Butter, unsalted

  • 100g Caster Sugar

  • 2 free-range Eggs

  • 110g Pistachio Nuts, finely ground

  • 50g Plain Flour, sifted

  • Zest of 1 unwaxed Lemon, finely chopped

Frosting

  • 150g Icing Sugar, sifted

  • 25g Butter, unsalted and softened

  • 75g Cream Cheese, cold from the fridge

  • 4 drops red food colouring

  • Dried Rose petals

  • Few Pistachio Nuts, chopped into slivers

Method

  • Cream the softened butter and sugar together until it is light, pale and fluffy.

  • Beat the eggs lightly and add into the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time, incorporating well after each addition.

  • Add in all the ground pistachio nuts and the zested lemon rind, mixing well into the mixture.

  • Fold in the sifted plain flour.

  • Place 5 large cupcake cases, or 7 medium cupcake cases into a muffin tray.

  • Divide the batter between the cupcake cakes, filling them two-thirds of the way up.

  • Bake for 20-25 minutes at 165 degrees (fan-assisted), or equivalent.

  • Remove from the oven once an inserted skewer comes out clean and allow to cool.

  • For the frosting, beat the icing sugar and the butter together until it is well mixed.

  • Add all the cold cream cheese and the red food colouring and beat until it is light and fluffy for about 5 minutes, but do not overbeat.

  • Spoon the frosting onto each cupcake and smooth with a spatula.

  • Decorate each cupcake with the dried rose petals and pistachio slivers.

Tips

  • Grind the pistachio nuts in a small coffee grinder. I use one exclusively for nuts and spices, used only for desserts.

  • You can substitute the plain flour in the recipe for gluten free plain flour and then the cupcakes are suitable for anyone with a gluten intolerance.

  • When smoothing the frosting onto the cupcakes, use a spatula. In order to get a very smooth finish, dip the spatula into hot water before smoothing it. Alternatively, you can pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes if you wish.

  • Instead of 5 large cupcakes, you can make miniature-sized ones as part of an afternoon tea.

Afternoon Chai

Henry James famously wrote in The Portrait of a Lady, 'There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.' Afternoon tea it can be said, is a quintessentially British tradition, an institution in fact. It was originally meant as a stopgap for the Duchess of Bedford to deal with afternoon hunger pangs between her two meals. However, afternoon tea is more fashionable than ever and no visit to Britain is complete without experiencing this custom. Fortnum and Mason, The Ritz, Claridges and The Goring, all pride themselves at being aficionados in tea-drinking and in the artistry of tiered plate presentation. In fact these chefs are becoming more and more creative with themes being added for Mother's Day, The Chelsea Flower Show and Wimbledon. Afternoon tea is all about relaxing over a pot of tea, (despite having at least fifteen different varieties to choose from), alongside a variety of sandwiches, scones, pastries and cakes. There is actually more than that to think about and there are several ongoing debates. Does the milk go into the cup before or after the tea; and which goes onto the scone first, the cream or the jam? All this etiquette should not get in the way of enjoying the indulgence of this time-honoured tradition.

An Indian 'High Tea' is not just cardamom chai with a couple of biscuits thrown in. It is usually a lavish spread of finger foods. The obligatory sandwiches, scones and cakes do get a look in, but bite size samosas, paneer pakoras, chaats, aloo tikkis and sweet barfis embellish the whole spread. I have wonderful childhood memories of savouring afternoon tea in Mumbai at that iconic, majestic landmark that is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Overlooking the Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea, the Sea Lounge in the hotel with all its colonial charm was and still is the most serene place to not only enjoy afternoon tea but to view the ferries bobbing up and down on the sea, travelling to and from Elephanta Island. The extensive food delicacies certainly enhanced my experience and to this day whenever I'm in Mumbai, I can't leave without revelling in tea drinking at the Sea Lounge.      

I recently hosted afternoon tea for friends and family and I did indulge my guests in a variety of sweet and savoury fare. The sumptuous cakes, macarons and bite sized pastries produced squeals of delight, and to cut through the richness of the savouries, I served platters of exotic fresh fruit, a little something to minimise the guilt of too much excess! Afternoon tea maybe trendy, but it's dignified and elegant too, so go forth and enjoy your high chai.